Balea Lake is one of the most visited lakes in Romania. What is it so special about it? Well, first of all, the road to Balea lake and also the landscape you can admire on that spot are amazing. The lake is also a reservation and near it, in winter, you can find the first ice hotel built in Eastern Europe. Like many of Romania’s iconic places, Balea Lake is surrounded by an eerie legend. Moreover, in march 2014, Van Damme was here, at the lake, to film a beer commercial. He was really impressed with the place.
Good to know about Balea Lake
Balea Lake is a glacier lake situated at 2,034 meters of altitude in the Fagaras Mountains, in central area of Romania. The lake is accessible by car on the Transfagarasan road (an amazing awesome road crossing the Fagaras Mountains) during the summer, and the rest of the year by cable car from “Bâlea Cascadă” (Balea waterfall). I will get more specific about ways to reach this lake at the end of the article, in “When, where, how much” section.
The lake is only about 11 meters deep and 360 meters long. However, it is not a bathing attraction as the temperature of the water can rarely reach 10 degrees Celsius in summer. There are also summer days when the water temperature hardly reaches three degrees.
Why do so many people come to Balea Lake
The main reason for people to come here, especially in summer, is the great landscape surrounding this area and the amazing road to this touristic attraction. It can be a great adventure just to reach this destination. Again, I would recommend you to come here in summer by car, by bike or motorcycle.
Also, at this great altitude, you can relax after a long road up by staying a night at one of the two guesthouses here or the ice hotel (never been to any of them so I am not familiar with the services there). However, you can also experience a great feeling just by picking a rock to sit on and eat your road sandwiches with your friends while admiring the landscape or you can choose to buy something good to eat from the small market improvised by locals just near the lake. I ate there and the products were safe to eat as I never had any problems afterwards. They all look fresh. There are also restaurants at the hotels, but the prices are rather high as there are so many tourists here.
Jean Claude Van Damme was impressed with Balea Lake in Romania
Well, I definitely felt really good when I heard on the news that Jean-Claude Van Damme is going to Balea Lake to shoot a beer commercial. It is important to emphasize that the commercial producers chose this exact location over so many others around Europe.
According to Romanian media, Van Damme arrived in Bucharest by plane and then at Balea Lake by helicopter. He landed on the lake’s thick ice. The tourists said that the great actor was accommodated near the lake where he requested his own special bed. After he made himself comfortable he went outside and made some photos with the enthusiastic tourist and also had a good time riding a snowmobile. “This place is so beautiful”, said Jean Claude Van Damme to the journalists while taking a deep breath and looking around. Here is the video news about this event. Couldn’t find the embed so I can give you the link.
The legend of Balea Lake
There is a legend that explains how this magnificent lake got his name. Legend tells that a long long time a go there was a very hard-working young man named Balea. His poor mother begged him to get married but he insisted that searching was of no use as the girl would come to him by fate. One day, as he was herding his sheep near a forest, a bear attacked him. He bravely managed to defeat the bear. The word spread of his bravery so the king of the land wanted to bring him to the castle to be one of his guards.
The young man followed the orders and soon became commander-in-chief or the king’s troops. However, one day, he decideed that he missed the simple life he had lived before so he wanted to get back to his sheep. But the oldest daughter of the king fell in love with him. She convinced him to stay and marry her. So as they were making the wedding arrangements a violent storm came in and as they were on the mountain they tried to find shelter. However, the storm’s force was grater. They both fell into the freezing lake holding each others hands. They died together. Impressed by their story, locals decided that this lake should be named after this young brave man. So, to these days, this glacier lake bears the name of Balea Lake.
The ice hotel from Balea Lake
The first ice hotel in Romania was built in the winter of 2005-06. As the first building of its kind in Eastern Europe, success came immediately, thausands local and foreign tourists came to see it on the top of the Carpathians.
Since 2005, every winter, the Hotel of Ice in the near Balea Lake is rebuilt, namely from the materials offered by nature: huge blocks of ice, cut and removed directly from the glacial Lake Balea are used to raise the walls, the snow gathered across the mountain slopes is used for fixing the ice bricks and for finishing the walls.
When, where, how much
The best way to have an amazing trip to Balea Lake is to travel in full summer by car. It is definitely the best way to enjoy the spectacular surroundings if you own a car or rent one. You can also use public transportation, hitchhiking and the cable car (in winter, the spectacular road to Balea Lake is closed so you HAVE TO take the cable car from Balea waterfall ) but it is a little bit trickier.
The nearest airport is Sibiu Airport, 77 kilometers away from Balea Lac. Other airports that either offer national and international connections are situated in Targu Mures City (175 km), Cluj Napoca city (241 km) and Bucharest (300 km).
The easiest way to reach Balea Lake is by car. If you arrive in the country by plane you can rent one.
If it is summer you should go on the Transfagarasan road, one of the most amazing mountain roads in Europe. To enter Transfagarasan you can do it either from Arefu village from the southern part of the mountains (near the place where Poenary castle is) or from Cartisoara, the northen part of the mountains (where you can visit a Haunted Abbey). Please note that, in the cold season, there is no access to Balea Lake from the southern part of the Transfagarasan road which is closed between November and the end of May, every year. In winter, you can only approach Balea Lake area from the northern part of the mountains (from Sibiu city or Brasov city). You can drive up to Balea waterfall, park and then take a cable car trip to the top.
Here you can see the Transfagarasan road and Balea as it passes by Balea Lake.
The Ice Hotel also offers some transport services in winter. There are kind of expensive, if you ask me, but if you don’t have a car they offer a good solution. You can see their offer here.
Below, there are two maps so you can see how you can arrive to Balea Lake from two major cities in Romania: Bucharest and Brasov city.
You can also hitchhike to Balea Lake from any point on the Transfagarasan road. The public transportation to this touristic attraction is really hard to use. You can arrive by train in the major cities in the area but, from there, you can find only bus trips used by locals to get between villages. I wouldn’t recommend those bus routes. I don’t find them safe enough for foreign tourists.